The Possibility Corridor: What if We Downgraded I-490?

I-490, the 24 year old stub of a highway between I-90 and E55th, has seen recent interest as a connector via the proposed Opportunity Corridor. Advocates for the Opportunity Corridor cite its value as an “Urban Boulevard” in contrast to the limited access highways that had been blocked by the “highways revolts” of the 1960s. With this is mind, it seems appropriate to reconsider I-490’s role in our region. 

Having been meant to merely form one link in a continuous limited access network of highways, I-490 never fulfilled its original purpose. As such, it provides an interesting opportunity for redevelopment as a parkway or boulevard that would more appropriately segue into the urban boulevard concept of the Opportunity Corridor.

For this reason we propose that once the second Innerbelt Bridge is completed that I-490 be shutdown over its full length. Note that construction of the Opportunity Corridor has already proposed closing the segment between I-77 and E 55th. Once closed, this expansive highway can be reworked within the existing paved right-of-way to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists – a new active transportation east-west connection thoughtfully placed in a parkway setting. This link would serve to provide important connections to the Towpath Trail, Morgana Run Trail (via the proposed Downtown Connector Trail), and the proposed Kingsbury Run Greenway, not to mention University Circle and beyond. Moreover, this realignment would set the stage for a reduced footprint through the future deconstruction of certain highway-style interchanges currently serving the corridor – reducing long-term maintenance obligations and opening up land for development and/or greenspace. These changes may also help reduce costs on the opportunity corridor itself by eliminating the need for an underpass at E 55th, and the property acquisition and displacement that this will accompany.
The cross sections, show, from west to east how the corridor might change while still accommodating truck and car traffic along it. The overview map shows how this reimagined I-490 would interact with both existing and proposed infrastructure.
Writing and renders by Christopher Lohr

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